Reacting to detentions of hundreds of party workers across the state on Wednesday, 4 May, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray said that the agitation against "illegal loudspeakers" at mosques and temples will continue irrespective and warned that it is "not a one-day affair."
Addressing the media at his residence even as security is heightened across the state, Thackeray said: "This issue is not just about loudspeakers on mosques, but temples too have them. They should also be removed."
"We will continue the agitation till all illegal loudspeakers are removed. The Supreme Court order is not to be followed selectively. If the permitted decibel levels are breached by mosques, we will play Hanuman Chalisa louder," he said.
Security has been strengthened across Maharashtra as the 'deadline' given by Thackeray for the removal of loudspeakers on top of mosques in the state came to an end on Wednesday, 4 May. Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut has alleged that Thackeray is working "in cahoots with the BJP" to fuel tensions in Maharashtra.
"There are students, sick patients, old people who get affected by the prayers blaring five times a day, all year," Raj Thackeray said.
"Most mosques in Maharashtra are illegal. Then why is permission being given to them? I don't understand," he added.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Police said on Wednesday that it has taken preventative action taken against more than 2,300 people, and has sent notices under Section 149 CrPC (to prevent cognisable offences) to around 7,000 persons on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Over 250 MNS Workers Held Across State: Police
Over 250 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers have been detained for playing Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers on Wednesday, the Maharashtra police said.
In Pune's Kasba Peth area, extensive security arrangements had been put in place near the Puneshswar Hanuman Temple after the announcement of a 'Maha Aarti' in the temple by the MNS. The Pune police later detained MNS General Secretary Ajay Shinde along with six others as a "preventive measure" after they performed the aarti.
Yogesh Shete, the head of Pune's MNS unit was also detained by Navi Thane's Sanpada Police on Wednesday. However, the charge against him was not immediately clear.
MNS workers also played Hanuman Chalisa near mosques in Mumbai's Charpok and Thane's Indira Nagar on Wednesday.
In Kalyan, most mosques did not use loudspeakers during the morning prayers. The police, who had meetings with representatives of the mosques, said that the latter had decided not to use loudspeakers as per orders by the Supreme Court, NDTV reported.
The Maharashtra Police on Wednesday said that it has given permission to use loudspeakers to approximately 1,500 mosques and 1,300 temples in state, excluding Mumbai.
The Maharashtra Home Department said that 135 out of the 1,140 mosques in Mumbai used loudspeakers before 6 am on Wednesday, adding that appropriate action will be taken against them
'BJP Behind Loudspeaker Row': Sena's Sanjay Raut
"BJP is behind the loudspeaker row in Maharashtra. They're using Raj Thackeray to create fissures among Hindus in the state," Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told reporters on Wednesday.
Raut further lamented that aartis were not conducted on Wednesday morning due to the protests over loudspeakers, calling it "unfortunate."
"The Supreme Court's decision is the same for all. Now our temples also have to bear the brunt of it. It's a black day for us Hindus that people couldn't hear aartis because of BJP's politics in cahoots with Raj Thackeray," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Raj Cites Bal Thackeray Amid Row, Shares Old Speech
A day after he issued a statement appealing to all Hindus to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers blaring azaan, Raj took to Twitter to share a video of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in which he can be heard saying that loudspeakers on mosques should be removed.
"The day my government comes to power in Maharashtra, we will make sure we will end the practice of namaz being offered on the streets. Religion should be something that should not hinder national interest. It should not become a nuisance," the late politician is heard saying during his speech in Marathi.
He further adds, "If Hindu religion is becoming a nuisance in any manner, please come to me with that too, we will take care of it. The loudspeakers on mosques will be brought down."
Security Tightened, Leaves of All Police Personnel Cancelled
The police said that they had deployed forces across sensitive locations, and that strict action would be taken against those persons who attempt to disrupt law and order.
Preparations made by the state government, led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, also included the deployment of Home Guards as well as the cancellation of leaves of all police personnel.
Police personnel stand guard outside a mosque after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena called for agitation outside mosques, at Rabodi.
Police personnel stand guard outside Mahim Dargah after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena called for agitation outside mosques, in Mumbai.
Raj had repeatedly asked members of his party to play Hanuman Chalisa in front of mosques that continue to use loudspeakers from Wednesday onwards.
"I appeal to all Hindus that tomorrow, 4 May, if you hear loudspeakers blaring azan; in those very places, play the Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers. That's when they will realise, the hindrance of these loudspeakers," the MNS chief had said in a statement on Twitter, while urging citizens to dial 100 and lodge a complaint if they heard loudspeakers atop mosques.
Asserting that the state government "stands very feeble on the issue," he wrote in the communication that while mosques were given permission to use loudspeakers, temples were not. He also noted that loudspeakers were a source on noise pollution, claiming that the issue was "not a religious issue but a social one".
He also said that the Sena's "school of Hindutva" was original. "Bal Thackeray and Veer Savarkar are the ones who taught Hindutva to the country. Shiv Sena's school of Hindutva is original," Raut asserted.
Multiple Cases Against Raj Thackeray
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Police issued a notice to Thackeray under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) Section 149, which is used to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence.
Another case was registered against Thackeray by the Aurangabad Police for alleged provocative statements made by him during a speech on 1 May regarding silencing loudspeakers atop mosques.
The face-off between the MNS and the Shiv Sena comes ahead of civic elections in the state, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is attempting to take over the Brihanmumbai Corporation.
The Sena has repeatedly accused the MNS of being the "B-team" of the BJP and attempting to rake up issues regarding Hindutva to reduce the vote share of the Sena, and thus help the BJP.
(With inputs from ANI and NDTV.)